Hong Kong tips for the Pinoy Tourist

Hong-Kong-Skyline

First time to Hong Kong? Here are my suggestions on what you need to consider:

1. Accommodations

Hong Kong is one of the world’s most expensive cities to live in. In fact, it ranked No. 2 in Mercer’s Cost of Living survey. So, expect hotels to be expensive. Good thing, though, if you’re on a budget, there are many options in Hong Kong. You’ll probably come across Chungking Mansions in your research. It’s along Nathan Road, a very busy road in the Kowloon side where most of the cheapest accommodations can be found (and where you probably will end up). Chungking Mansions have perhaps the cheapest accommodations in HK (Kowloon), but as with many backpacker areas, rooms are basic. Sometimes, you have to bring your own towel and toiletries. Rooms are also very small. This is nothing unique to Chungking Mansions. Rent in HK is very expensive so rooms are small, like 8sqm at least. Some tourists complain of feeling unsafe in the environment, and that’s why we chose a different area when we went to Hong Kong.

I highly recommend looking for rooms in the Jordan area, which is near Nathan Road. There are plenty of good and cheap options there. Your accommodation “necessities” should include good accessibility to public transport (our was right beside the MTR station), good reviews, and with hosts or owners preferably conversant in English, which will really make your lives easier.

 

2. Commuting

Hong Kong Ding Ding

Commuting in Hong Kong is very  convenient. I recommend you try all modes of transport, just to experience it.

First things first, I suggest getting an Octopus Card upon arrival at the airport. It costs 150 HKD (Php 600.00) where, 50 HKD is the deposit returnable when you depart (less HKD9, so you get HKD 41 upon return of the card). With your remaining HKD 100, you can use it already to take a bus from the airport to your hostel. Your Octopus card can also be used for the ferry, the buses, the ding-ding (tram), McDonalds, and most establishments, actually. It’s very convenient to pay for transportation with the Octopus card. Otherwise, you’d have to be prepared with loose change for bus payments (They don’t give you back any change so it has to either be exact amount or a little more).

Star Ferry

You can take the Star Ferry at Tsim Sha Tsui going to Hong Kong Island (Central Pier) for 2.50 HKD (Php 15.00). It’s surprisingly relaxing and a good way to spend around 15 minutes of your time. The view at night is also amazing.

The Tram

Hong Kong Ding Ding

The tram, or fondly called the ding ding by the locals, is an excellent way of exploring the HK Island side. A ride costs HKD 2.50, flat rate, and it traverses the city. However, because it has so many stops, it’s very slow. If you have the time, ride the ding-ding from one end to the other, and make sure you’re on the upper balcony so that you get to see the sights in Hong Kong Island.

MTR

Obviously, this is the most convenient means of transport. I loved commuting in Hong Kong because it’s very tourist-friendly. You might need to get a map of the train stops at first but at the same time, as long as you know where you need to get off, you’ll be fine.

3. Places to Go / Things to Do

Victoria Peak

My uncle, who lives in Hong Kong, said any first time tourist should go to Victoria Peak, arguably the best viewing spot of Hong Kong’s famous skyline. I agree. I would suggest to try and catch the sunset on the peak so you can see it in all its magical glory. Here’s a timelapse from youtube to give you an idea, and a screen grab:

maxresdefault

(You have to still see it for yourselves, ok?)

Going up, there are two budget options:
1. By Bus (Bus 15 from Pier 5 or Exchange Square, Central)
2. By tram (at the peak tram terminus)

Most tourists prefer the tram because it’s faster (around 15 minutes). It costs HKD 40 one-way. If you plan to go down by tram, you need to decide before buying the ticket because there is no option to buy from the peak. This is another HKD 40. If not, then you can take a bus back to Central, which takes around an hour I think (I slept all the way back).

There are sellers of combo tickets on-site which include Madame Tussauds Hong Kong + Peak Tram Sky Pass return for around HKD 320 (Php 1,920) but we did not avail of this. Don’t be swayed by the Skypass ticket because actually, you can still see the skyline for free! The viewing deck is inside the Peak Galleria, a mall on the peak. Of course the Sky Terrace offers a wider perspective from a higher altitude so if you’re very particular about this, then by all means get the Skypass combo.

Shopping

Hong Kong is almost synonymous to shopping, and believe me, you’ll be literally overwhelmed with shopping areas, malls and stores at every corner. It’s fascinating in a way because as a tourist, you have access to buy just about everything imaginable: brands that are probably not available in the Philippines, or electronics that are cheaper (but generally, everything is more expensive in Hong Kong), etc. After 8 days, though, it was tiring for me. I didn’t go to Hong Kong to shop anyway; the shopping culture wasn’t so appealing to me. In any case, it’s still worth visiting these areas if you really plan to shop, or just want to experience their culture.

Mong Kok

The Mong Kok area is like our Divisoria, only, cleaner and maybe safer. This is another can’t miss destination because of the variety of things you can find there.

Causeway Bay

Causeway is in Hong Kong Island and more conveniently accessible by MTR. This area is like New York’s Times Square, where shopping areas, stores, and just a sea of humans converge.

Causeway, Hong Kong

Harbour City

The official description says: Hong Kong’s largest mall is actually three malls in one: Ocean Terminal, Ocean Centre and Gateway Arcade. The upshot for the shopper is a choice of over 450 shops, around 50 restaurants, three hotels and two cinemas. Fortunately, this mind-boggling selection has been intelligently organised into four distinct zones for kids, sport, fashion, and cosmetics and beauty.”

So this mall is really massive, and they provide you maps so you can navigate through the entire area. Lots of walking required. If you’re on a budget, I doubt you’d want to buy anything here because everything here is so expensive. Like, really. This mall is in Kowloon side and is walkable from the Tsim Sha Tsui ferry if you’re coming from the HK Island side. On the upside, it’s a great area for window shopping and people watching. Two free, enjoyable things to do.

Stanley Bay

Stanley Bay, Hong Kong

If you get tired of all the shopping and the skyscrapers, you may want to visit Stanley Bay, a popular destination for both locals and foreigners.

This is a refreshing change of scenery. Going here, you either have to take a cab (very expensive) or a bus (cheap and accessible). It’s quite far from the city but really worth a visit. What to see here? Well, the bay, for one. Then temples, shopping areas (but not like the ones in the city), a park, and nature!

Quarry Bay Park

QuarryBay

This park is in the Hong Kong Island. It’s not actually a famous tourist spot but I think it is worth a visit if you’re in the area anyway. It is one of my favorite places in Hong Kong because of its peacefulness and it being beside a long stretch of harbour, giving you a good view of the skyline and other famous landmarks.

Quarry Bay Park

I imagine this is a good place to jog, to do a morning stroll, to meditate… The harbor even has fishing spots, if it fancies you.

4. Where to Eat

Of course, the all important question. Hong Kong is a foodie’s mecca. I knew that even before I went to Hong Kong. From Anthony Bourdain’s adventures to other foodie features on TV, I knew Hong Kong would offer me a variety of food choices. Fortunately for me, I don’t eat pork, which is a staple in Hong Kong (or Chinese cuisine, for that matter), and I’m allergic to some seafoods, so my choices were narrowed down. But there’s still a lot to taste.

I love that almost all of the restaurants we went to had vegetarian options, so if you’re vegetarian, you’re covered. Decent food starts at around 40HKD (240) up. So it is quite pricey if you’re on a budget. But there are cheap alternatives. If you’re in the Kowloon area already, you must try out the food stalls and shops at Temple Street.

Temple Street Market, Hong Kong

They have a variety of food choices and it is where we found the cheapest (15HKD) BUT good enough food during our stay.

 

One thing you can’t miss is Ikea. It was my first time to visit an Ikea store (hopefully they open here in the Philippines) and in my curiousity, spent at least 2 hours exploring all of the floors. What surprised me was that they had a bistro and the food being served was really cheap. If you’re on a budget, this is the place. They have complete meals and snacks.

Ikea Bistro, Hong Kong

Here are other must try foods in Hong Kong.

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog, I hope this article was helpful!

Advertisements

Generation Me

I wrote this thoughts on Facebook a few months back and promised a friend I’ll post it here for quick referencing:

Just an observation. Thinkers are increasingly becoming harder to find among young people today. By that I don’t mean smart in the sense of books and the ability to memorize–that is, in fact, in abundance. But the mindset to question things, to challenge presuppositions and the status quo, to be critical-minded, to think out of the box, to ask, “why?” and then to proceed to think of solutions and actually do them, I find them lacking nowadays.

For example, have you ever asked yourself, “why do I believe what I believe?” and sought answers? I find that a lot of young people don’t even give thought to their beliefs. In the same way, some people are quick to believe second hand information or perhaps biases and prejudice that other people hold, and pass it off as their own without actually considering its truthfulness or the merits of the alternative. Which leads me to lament, “Thinking young people, “hope of the future”, you are a rare and dying breed.”

The observation then still holds true now, and I don’t think it’s going to change. I think it’s a generational thing. Going back to college and being with students a decade younger than me, I’ve observed that young people nowadays have very, very short attention span. You constantly have to engage them otherwise they lose interest pretty quickly. It’s about me,me,me with people nowadays. They, or we, are so connected to technology and by extension, other people, but at the same time, disconnected from each other. It’s a crazy phenomenon, this addiction to technology and the declining relevance (?) of personal socialization or interaction.

I was recently with a group of my classmates in Hong Kong and observed this reality of just being glued to smart phones and gadgets and not being present in the moment. It’s sad, to say the least, and I constantly also have to be reminded by my husband to put down my phone when were together and just “be in the moment”.

I’m reminded of this verse from 2 Timothy, which I think just captures the reality today:

1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;

 

Uber is a gamechanger, that’s why LTFRB wants no part of it

I only recently discovered Uber and was actually writing a draft on why it is an absolute gamechanger, not to mention, an answer to many commuters prayers, when my sister sent me a story just today that LTFRB, the government agency in charge of transportation and franchising, is shutting down UBER and threatening a host of legal actions against the company.

So I had to ask the obvious question,

WHY, LTFRB? Why do you hate progress???

I’ve been using Uber for 4 straight days now, and just this day I saw one clear example of why we love Uber—what it stands for and how it does business.

This morning I used Uber to take me to MOA. As usual, I received on my email a summary of my trip. I was very satisfied with just the entire experience of commuting. It was safe, convenient, and the driver was VERY professional. He took me where I wanted to go, no questions asked, no extravagant tips requested. I had information about my driver, the car was very clean (actually, very new) and so as a commuter FED up with how taxis are in the Philippines, Uber was indeed heaven-sent.

In the afternoon, I was coming from near Terminal 2 of the Airport, and didn’t have wifi/data to access Uber so I had to take a regular cab. As soon as I got in, my driver asked if I can add another Php50.00 on top of the fare because it was “traffic”. Plus, because it was near the airport and he was just called in, his meter was already running when he came to fetch me. What a world of difference between this taxi and Uber. I would choose Uber (and similar companies, if there are any) any day of the week because I believe that they are really after changing the game. Here was their official statement:

“Uber has been embraced in 222 cities in 45 countries around the world, and in many of those cities we are challenging outdated (pre-mobile era) regulations that are unable to keep up with technological advancement. Uber is committed to put the interest of consumers and their communities as priority by bringing something fresh and new to a sector that is characterized by stagnation. Safe, reliable, and convenient transportation options – something that Filipinos have been demanding for a long time now.”

“We are disappointed that the government has taken action against a technology service that is better for riders, drivers and the community. Around the world, Uber is working with governments to achieve common goals, focused on safe, reliable and efficient transportation options, that are regulated. It is our mission to work with like-minded individuals to encourage new policies that welcome innovation and improve transportation options while putting consumer safety and driver opportunity first for all Filipinos.”

“Safe, reliable, and convenient transportation options – something that Filipinos have been demanding for a long time now.”

Something that LTFRB does not care about, it would appear. What a shame.

Here is a company trying to improve an absolutely bulok system, and LTFRB wants to SHUT IT DOWN. I understand that Uber has to comply within the legal framework of transport operations, but what if the framework itself is problematic? If its an issue of regulation, they should start where it is really problematic: buses and colorum vehicles. Obviously I’m not a lawyer and this post is more of a rant from a commuter, because after all, it is us commuters who are affected. Does LTFRB even listen? Shame.


 

Update:

It appears the official complaint was filed by the Philippine National Taxi Operators Association. The reason? “Disabling their services.” Well if their services were great to begin with, then it wouldn’t be disabled! I guess I’m not surprised at all because they are threatened. THEY SHOULD BE. Uber is a gamechanger and it is precisely because taxi operators are found lacking that they retaliate against Uber (and in essence, what they stand for). Typical colonial mentality, if you ask me.

I like that MMDA is taking the side of Uber on this one. Will it matter though? Let’s see.

To my classmates, on our sembreak

Going home from school today was an interesting learning experience. (It never stops!!) Today was the second to the last day of a school semester that has been, in many ways, painfully educational, humbling and satisfying. We think of school as a place of learning, and rightly so. We do not merely learn skills. If we’re attentive enough, we learn life lessons. How to respond when we make mistakes, or when we fail, get disappointed or find ourselves in unfavorable circumstances, however, is something that is only learned through experience. School schools us, basically, when we fail a quiz or bungle a presentation, because at the root of such tasks it presumes whether due diligence was done. In school, the verse “you reap what you sow” perfectly applies. Generally speaking.

I was listening to music on my phone on my way home, distracting myself from feeling down because I did not do well on our exam. I quickly pulled myself out of that tempting ditch of negativity. I suppose that was maturity doing its work. My thoughts shifted to my classmates, naturally. I wondered how they are handling their situation. At this point in the semester, we all would fall into either one of these categories:

1. Quite pleased with our performance
2. Wish we could have done better
3. Feeling down because of bad grades and basically, failure in any way shape or form
4. We don’t care

I’m now addressing my classmates. As your ate, I hope you won’t mind me giving some unsolicited but hopefully considered grains of wisdom I learned through school – the school of experience.

I’m about 10 years older than most of you. This is my second go at college. I’m perhaps in the enviable position of having already finished college and knowing already what to expect, so I respond to stress and take failures and disappointment less harder than some of you probably do. (This is not to say I’m not disappointed whenever I don’t do well in my academics. The frustration has less to do with doubts on my capability; on the contrary, it’s because I know what I am capable of that makes not meeting my personal expectations and standards disappointing. People who set attainable standards – and not meet them – can probably relate with me.)

You are quite pleased with your performance

A lot of you can confidently say you are quite pleased with your performance this semester. Congratulations! Nothing is more satisfying than finishing well. (I wish I could say the same thing but I fall into the second category.) You are on the right track. Keep it up! Pursue excellence, and by this I mean go beyond what is expected. Use the sem break to expand your knowledge. Do advance and supplementary readings. Set higher goals. Think of the big picture.

A couple of days ago I was having a conversation with somebody about the state of optometry in the Philippines. In a lot of provinces, the practice of optometry is still crude. Equipment is lacking (understandable maybe) professionalism is wanting (hmmm), but perhaps the most dire reality is that the learning has stopped for many optometrists.

For example, some optometrists offer contact lenses that are not safe to use but sell them because they are cheap. Others have clinics that shout “I need a makeover!!” (I’m not saying it has to be an expensive clinic but, for goodness sake, we are professional doctors AND businessmen). Others, still, have altogether stopped learning, not mindful that the practice of optometry (and in general, medicine and health) is constantly evolving such that there may be long-held teachings that are no longer acceptable today, there are newer technology and better ways of treating patients, and that learning should never stop!

What I’m saying is that, this is the reality. I believe Optometry is one of the best, viable courses to take and it presents a world of opportunities that will make a lot of people’s lives better. Ours included. Do not think for a second that you are still too young or it is too early to think of this. Look at the big picture. School presents an opportunity to learn and you must already be preparing for that time when you have your own clinic or start practicing. The need is great. I once heard somebody say what will make us doctors is basically because we write prescriptions. I have never begged to differ more. What will make us doctors is our ability to treat our patients, enabling them to have clear, comfortable vision. How can we do this? Constant learning, in and out of school.

You wish you could have done better

I fall into this category. Well, what can I say? We have good days, we have bad days. But let’s be honest. Most of the grades we got – we deserved. Why? We slacked off. We were complacent. We settled. So we are left wishing we could have done better.

The good news is that we can.

How? Same as above. Pursue excellence. Keep distractions at a minimum. Expand your knowledge. Read, read, read. Don’t beat yourself up over what’s done and what’s in the past. I have learned that there are two circles of concern in our life: a small circle that is within our control and a bigger circle that is outside our control.

concern

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% of how you respond to it.” We cannot control our grades at this point. What is within our control now is how we respond. Shall I go about drinking because my grades are bad? You’d say it will make you feel better, or just help you unwind. But the question is, is it solving the problem? Because you want to address the problem and not excuse it with nights of drunken stupor. Or whatever excuse you have.

Too often the default response of people to stress, failure, anxiety or problems is to escape it. I was feeling down but I had to choose to take the high road of improvement – of resolving to do better. I highly recommend you take this route as well.

You feel down because of bad grades and basically, failure in any way shape or form

You are not a failure. You just failed in one area. Those are two different things. Do not let failure define you. I know of some people who have allowed failure to set the course of their life. Instead of resolving to improve, they’ve given in to their circumstance. Therefore, they have lost respect for academics and the value of doing what is right.

There are far too many corny cliches regarding failure but one thing I know – it doesn’t have the be the end point. Sometimes, failure can even a springboard for change, given the right attitude.

You don’t care

Of course you do.


I said the trip home was a learning experience. Indeed, it was. It took me back to when I was younger and how I used to deal with my circumstances, and now that I’m older and how I deal with my circumstances. When I was younger, I dealt with stress in probably a similar way like some of you – escape it or wallow in misery or depression, which did not solve my problem. Or if I did well, I would reward myself – which is what you should do as well.

Now that we are older (and perhaps, wiser) we need to step into maturity in all things we do – whether in academics, how we treat each other, and how we respond to our circumstances. This sembreak, let’s take that badly needed rest and relaxation. Hopefully the short time off will get us ready and excited for the next semester again!